One of the hardest things to admit to is overeating or binge eating. Even someone who has a relaxed and natural relationship to food the majority of the time, will feel some embarrassment in admitting they ate an entire packet of biscuits after an argument with their partner. We have developed the idea that giving in to our emotions, no matter what form that may take, shows weakness and lack of control. Admitting that we are not happy with our lives has become taboo.
The uncomfortable truth is that everyone has their own way of coping with life, especially anything that causes them upset. Eating is the most basic of survival instincts, instantly creating a feeling of calm and contentment. We don’t even need to do it to feel the benefits; often just thinking about eating will provide us with the feeling that everything will be alright.
Once our methods of coping are learnt, they never leave us. Even now, years on from my weight loss, I still get the urge to eat first whenever I feel upset; it is and always will be my first instinct. The only difference between then and now is that now I see it as it happens, giving me the choice to follow it or not. People are often shocked that I still on rare occasion give in to it. They look at me like I’m relapsing back into a despicable past. What I am really doing is following my basic instinct just as anyone else does; it is just more visible because I am happy to talk about it. If food is what will help me make sense of the world at that moment, then I have the choice to use it, just as a smoker or drinker or gambler chooses his or her own way. There are times in our lives when escape is the only answer available to us, and as long as we do it knowingly, we should never feel bad about it.
Letting all stages of your overeating and binge eating happen in a way that you are fully aware of, the before, during, and after, turns something that has previously felt wrong and destructive into a way of learning about yourself.
When you overeat or binge eat is also one of the biggest clues in figuring out what your main reasons for eating are. We will always begin or plan to eat shortly before the emotion that we fear starts to happen. Although it may not be something we notice consciously, the mind realises that something that is going to happen or we are going to start thinking about will cause us pain or discomfort, and so it urges us to act before it begins. Stopping for food on the way home from work tells you there is something that your mind fears will happen at home, that it wants to protect you from. Overeating before bed can be an indicator that you are anxious about the next day. Sadness or fear begins to come up which need food to go away. Taking lots of food with you to work so you can graze all day reveals a job that is causing either boredom or stress. You may not realise any of this at the time it happens, you will just feel the urge to find food, but it is your mind showing you what is truly making you unhappy. So next time, instead of the fight, admit what you are trying to avoid and begin finding your way out.
Extract from “Still Overweight? The 6-week course that changes your weight and relationship to food forever”